There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.”— Judith McNaugh

I was excited about the opportunity to study abroad for a semester, but terrified that I would not be able to secure a job as a result. Most of my friends and family advised me not to go: they thought it was a crazy idea!

I asked myself over and over again if I should go on exchange or if I should stay at York University for the semester. There were so many reasons why I thought going on exchange was a VERY BAD idea.

  • The opportunity cost of missing out on the fall recruitment; a number of companies were coming to recruit students, and if I were away I wouldn’t stand a chance of securing a position.
  • I didn’t know anybody in China. The thought of going to another country so far from home and outside my comfort zone scared me.

Even though I was waist deep in fear and doubt, I took a leap of faith and, to my surprise; it was a transformational learning experience.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be around during the recruitment process, I did all the leg work prior to leaving Canada i.e. I set up meetings with alumni that previously worked or were currently working in the positions I was interested in. This was very important because they told me more about the positions and who the hiring manager (decision maker) was. Fortunately, I was able to attend some of the networking events organized by CDC and met those hiring managers in person.

I also leveraged the expertise of the Career Development Center. The counsellors worked closely with me to identify my skill sets, develop my career plan and refine my networking skills. The guidance they provided was very helpful in my journey to success (The mistake most students make is that they don’t utilize this vital resource provided by the school). My advice to students is to book appointments with these counsellors to go over your career plan and attend all the sessions – mock interview, resume building etc. that they organize. Most of the interview questions I was asked were related to the country I went to on exchange, its international policies, its economy, local consumer behavior etc. It also helped that I was able to frame my international experience to fit the specific position I was interviewing for. So yes, going on exchange definitely set me apart from the other candidates in this respect.

I lived the Chinese life and experienced all the extremes that make one love, get frustrated at, and be in awe of the amazing country. At first, I was a little homesick and experienced different forms of culture shock. Slowly but surely, I made a circle of international and local friends, immersed myself in a new culture and politics and discovered colorful cuisines and beautiful cities. I also volunteered at a local children’s charity and worked with an international company as part of a class project. By studying in another part of the world and learning a new language I was able to connect with local people in ways I wouldn’t have if I were a tourist. Being out of my comfort zone made me more globally aware and open to new experiences.

This exchange was the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life. It impacted me in unquantifiable ways. It broadened my perspective, expanded my world and made me more independent. The local students and other international exchange students were absolutely wonderful, and I now feel very comfortable approaching strangers and forming new friendships. Best of all, we formed a bond so strong that we are planning a reunion in Barcelona this year!

Unless you believe in reincarnation, we only get a one-way ticket in this life, so don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Follow your instinct, be courageous and take that leap of faith. Trust me: it will be worth it.

PS: While I was away on exchange, I was interviewed and offered a job at one of the top-five banks in Canada! Even if I hadn’t been offered a job, going on exchange is a decision I would make again in a heartbeat.

Maryam Shittu
CEIBS – Shanghai, China

Apply for exchange by 4pm on Monday, November 7 , 2016

Graduate Exchange